How To Make Sweet Tea – The Complete Guide


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I love the occasional sweet tea just as much as the next person. So, I decided to try and make some sweet tea at home. I searched online and went through different recipes till I found the perfect one (in my opinion!)

So, how do you make sweet tea? Here’s the recipe:

10 Steps To Make Sweet Tea

1. Add 4 cups of water to a saucepan and set it over medium heat. Let is come to a boil and once you see the bubbles, remove it from the heat.
2. Dip the tea bags a few times at first to get them wet. Then leave them submerged and let the strings hang from the side of the saucepan. Depending on whether you want a subtle taste or a stronger taste, you can leave them between 5-8 minutes.
3. After you’re happy with the taste of the tea, remove the tea bags from the pan and discard them. Alternately, you can store them for later use. I hear used tea bags are great for the skin.
4. Now, it’s time to add the sugar. Add 1 cup of granulated sugar to the mix and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
5. Pour this mixture into a pitcher and let is cool down.
6. Once the temperature has descended to room temperature, add two cups of cool water and stir well. The amount of water can vary depending on how strong you want your tea to be.
7. Stir the mixture well.
8. Refrigerate overnight for a classic sweet tea.
9. When serving, add two mint leaves and a slice of lime to a cup and crush the mint and lime with a pestle or back of a spoon to release the flavours.
10. Add the tea over ice and serve.

Ingredients –

  • 12 tea bags (individual) or 3 family tea bags. You can choose Lipton if you’re using tea bags or purchase loose tea if you’re a connoisseur of the art. More on that later
  • 2 cups of cool water to dilute the mixture
  • 1 cup granulated sugar to add sweetness. You can use more or less, depending on your propensity for sweetness
  • Ice; 4-5 cubes per serving
  • Fresh mint leaves and/or lemon slices
  • Saucepan, pestle and spoon

Varieties of Sweet Tea

Now, I mentioned before that I went through different recipes. That’s because there isn’t just one recipe for sweet tea. Over the year, each region and culture has adapted sweet tea according to their tastes. Some are a product of geographical division, while some were inspired by the need to have a fun time.

Yeah, you heard me right!…

Today, you can make different varieties of sweet tea depending on your taste, mood and lifestyle. Yes, lifestyle is also a factor. This is because some prefer herbal tea over regular tea. Similarly, mood and lifestyle also becomes a factor, since sweet tea can also be a party hit (if you know how to make it).

Want to know more?

Cool! So, I decided to list out some of the other recipes of sweet tea with a bit of a variation.

Peach Sweet Tea

For this Peach Sweet Tea recipe, follow the steps 1-5 in the main recipe. then…
1. Once the tea mixture is ready to cool, move on to making the peach syrup
2. To make the peach syrup, add 2 cups of water to a saucepan.
3. Add half a cup of the sugar to the water and bring it to a boil. Usually preparing a syrup require 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of water to sugar, but since we’ve already added sugar to the tea, we’ll restrain ourselves.
4. Keep stirring the mixture and add 2-3 slices of fresh peaches.
5. If you want to store it for a longer period, add half a teaspoon of citric acid.
6. Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat to a simmer.
7. Crush the peaches to enhance the flavour profile.
8. Reduce the heat slightly and put the lid on.
9. Cook for 20-25 minutes on low flame. Keep an eye on the mixture so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
10. Keep stirring every few minutes.
11. After 25 minutes, remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool.
12. Strain the peaches and enjoy your peach syrup.
13. To make peach sweet tea add about 4-5 tablespoons of the syrup to the tea mixture. Taste and adjust according to your preference.
Your peach sweet tea is ready.

peach sweet tea – courtesy of flickr.com

Raspberry Sweet Tea

Raspberry sweet tea can be your perfect accompaniment for a hot summer’s day. Preparing it is quite simple. You can follow the same process as preparing the peach syrup. Instead of using 2-3 slices of peach, add a 2 cups of raspberry.

Depending on your preference for sweetness, you can either prepare a simple raspberry syrup without any sugar or add a bit more for that extra kick. You can also avoid the citric acid when preparing the raspberry syrup.

Cucumber Sweet Tea

When looking for a cool drink for afternoon delight, there are very few that come close to a cucumber sweet tea. An easy variation of the cucumber tea is the cucumber mint tea. The flavours compliment each other and make for a refreshing drink.

To make your cucumber sweet tea, mix 1/2 cup of pureed cucumber with the tea base or mixture. Then leave it overnight or at least for 4 hours in the refrigerator. After that take them out and strain the mixture to remove the cucumber pulp.

Pour the tea over ice and add sliced cucumbers as garnish. You can also add a bit of mint for that extra edge.

Strawberry and Basil Sweet Tea

If you have a taste for the fruit punch then a strawberry basil tea might be more up your alley. It follows a similar process to making cucumber sweet tea. Mix 2 cups of crushed strawberries with the tea base.

Add about 10 basil leaves to the mixture and mix them well. Then leave them to settle for about 4-6 hours. Then strain the mixture to get rid of the pulp and the leaves. Pour the mixture over ice and add cold water. Instead of cold water, you can also add some club soda for a bit of zest. Your strawberry basil sweet tea is ready.

Orange Ginger Sweet Tea

But sweet tea isn’t restricted to only fruity favours. In fact, there are variations of sweet tea aimed at healthier living and aiding better bodily functions. The orange ginger sweet tea adds Vitamin C to your diet, boosts your immune function and allows for detoxification.

If you use green tea instead of regular tea for the tea base, the concoction also helps improve blood flow and reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. All in all, a pretty healthy drink with a flavour boost.

So, how do you make orange ginger sweet tea? Here’s the secret….

1. Take 4 cups of water and pour them in a saucepan.
2. Bring the water to a boil and then turn off the heat.
3. Add about 5 green tea bags (regular tea will do as well) to the water along with 2 tablespoons of finely grated ginger.
4. Allow the mixture to steep for 3-5 minutes depending on how strong you want your tea to be.
5. Then allow the tea to cool and strain the mixture to remove the ginger.
6. Prepare freshly squeezed orange juice and lemon juice beforehand.
7. Add them to the tea base and stir until mixed.
8. Allow the mixture to cool in the refrigerator overnight.
9. Serve over ice and a few mint leaves.
This recipe is for 2 servings. You can adjust the proportion of the ingredients according to the number of servings you need.  

Here’s what to do with your tea bags afterwards! There are so many uses that tea bags have before and after you’ve steeped tea with them.

Or see if they’re suitable enough to be Composted?

Lavender Lemon Sweet Tea

Lavender tea has a lot of health benefits. It helps those suffering from insomnia, skin blemishes and is a natural remedy for pain relief. It also works well for those suffering from heat diseases and asthma.

So, if you’re looking some lavender tea that keeps you healthy and also tastes good, lavender lemon sweet tea is the way to go.

1. To make your sweet tea, add 4 cups of water to a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
2. Turn off the heat and add your lavender tea bags.
3. Allow the mixture to steep for 2-3 minutes.
4. Once the tea base is cooled, add your 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. You can add more depending on your taste. You could also add sugar syrup to make it sweet but then it would lose its health benefits.
5. Stir the mixture well and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
6. Pour over ice and serve.

Kentucky Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is not only a drink for warm summer afternoons, but serves for evening party drinks as well. Use the sweet tea recipe mentioned at the beginning of the article to create your sweet tea base.

Then, add 2 parts liquor and 3 parts of sweet tea to create your own version of Kentucky sweet tea. You can use bourbon or even vodka as the liquor. Pour the sweet tea over ice and add the liquor. Stir well and shake a bit to ensure that it mixes well. Then add a lemon wedge as garnish before serving. Lavender Lemon Sweet Tea!

History of Sweet Tea

Tea has long been popular in Asia. In fact, that’s where it originated before United Kingdom took it to its various colonies as part of their East of India Company shipments around the globe. Before tea made the jump across the pond, it was already a daily habit for people of China, India, Great Britain and Senegal.

When tea did arrive in the U.S. it was merely served as a hot beverage with sugar mixed with it. In this version, the tea is steeped separately and sugar is added to the cup as per the taste of the consumer. However, sweet tea first found its root in the South (southern states of U.S.) when they started cooling the tea and adding ice to it.

southern sweet tea – courtesy of flickr.com

It was then known as sweetened iced tea. Over time, the process of making tea changed gradually and sugar started to be added during the steeping process. This is basically due to the South’s love for sweetness. Seven out of eight people in the south drink sweet tea. Most of them prefer sweetened to unsweetened tea. Sweet tea is not just a drink in the South, but a ritual. It’s omnipresent in almost all households and also serves as a rite of passage.

Slowly the term sweetened iced tea started taking it current colloquial name sweet tea as it disintegrated from sweet iced tea, ice tea to sweet tea. But then, what is the difference between ‘sweet tea’ and ‘ice tea’?

Difference Between Sweet Tea and Iced Tea

Sweet tea is often served with ice, but the preparation involves adding the sweetener to the tea while it’s still brewing or while it’s hot. This helps dissolves the sweetener and mix well with the mixture.

Ice tea on the other hand, refers to any kind of tea that is served with ice. There are variations across countries. In some cultures, the tea is brewed hot and then cooled to serve with ice. While other methods use cool brewing where the tea is brewed directly with ice over long periods of time.

These two categories are not mutually exclusive and often overlap. But while iced tea is always served with ice, it may or may not be sweet. On the other hand, sweet tea is isolated to the U.S.

Other parts of the world serve sweet ice tea, but it’s generally referred to as iced tea. However, there are many different varieties of sweetened tea that are served both hot and cold, while iced teas can be both sweetened and unsweetened.

Tips and Tricks of Making Sweet Tea

Making the perfect tea requires learning a few tricks of the trade. While taste preferences vary from people to people, sipping a smooth, aromatic and refreshing sweet tea has no alternative.

Choose The Right Tea

Choosing the right kind of tea affects what kind of flavour you will have you in your sweet tea. If you want to taste the original smoothness of the tea, then you need to select loose leaf tea.

Loose leaf teas tend to release more aroma and adds layers to the flavour. In contrast, CTC (cut-tear-curl) tea is better used for longer periods of brewing. There’s not as much flavour and is usually used in general tea bags.

Which Kind of Water to Use

Mineral water contains certain essential minerals which compound the flavour of the tea. In contrast, distilled water produces flat tasting tea which lacks the layers.

The Right Temperature

The correct brewing temperature of the tea varies depending on type of the tea used. If you’re using black tea, herbal tea or any darker variety of tea when steeping the tea in boiling water serves better taste. Remember to add the tea when the water is boiling and then immediately turn off the heat.

For green tea and other lighter-lighter-coloured tea, use cooler temperatures. Allow the boiling water to cool down for about 2 minutes then add the tea.

If you don’t know the temperature then use this method.

Steeping Time

The steeping time usually depends on how strong you want your tea to be. For example, steeping black tea (loose leaf tea) for 3-5 minutes allows the leaves to release the flavours just right. Green tea should be steeped no more than 2-3 minutes.

How Geography Divides Tea

Like I mentioned previously, tea has been consumed in various parts of the world for a long time. As a result, the tea preparation has taken on the colour of the local culture. Just like sweet tea is local to the South, sencha, bancha and houjicha are local to Japan.

Masala chai is indigenous to India, while butter tea is local to the Tibetan culture. Various cultures steep tea for different periods. For example, English tea and Indian black tea are usually steeped for 2-3 minutes since the emphasis is majorly on the flavour. These kinds of teas have sophisticated flavour which are light and lack the edge that tannins offer.

In contrast, butter tea is first prepared after brewing the tea in boiling water. Then the mixture is steeped over very low heat overnight with butter. The mixture is diluted and then re-steeped. The fukamushi sencha is steeped 2-3 times longer than the sencha.

The kind of tea also varies from region to region. The sencha, bancha and hojicha are varieties of green tea that the Japanese prepare by mixing varieties of tea along with cherry or plum blossoms.

In India, darjeeling tea is used for lightly sweetened or unsweetened black tea, but CTC tea is used for masala chai.

Conclusion

Tea has found its way into the daily lives of millions. Sweet tea remains on the characteristic of the Southern living style. It exudes warmth, comfort and so much more. But it can be prepared in so many different ways.

Based on people’s preference and taste, it has taken the form of more than just tea. So, prepare it in your own way and enjoy your freshly brewed sweet tea.

I hope this has proved useful for you in learning about and experimenting with sweet tea and the varieties of sweet tea available. Give it a try and let me know in the comments if this has helped, or if I missed anything!

And don’t forget to take part in the Global Tea Survey. It takes just 30 seconds to complete and you get to find out what the world drinks!